Drones will look for deadly jellyfish. So the researchers want to protect people from collisions with dangerous animals.
The researchers want to teach drones to look for sea wasps (Chironex fleckeri) – large jellyfish that can kill a person in less than three minutes. They are considered one of the most venomous animals in the world. They usually inhabit northern Australian waters from October to May, with mostly calm coastal waters, so there is a high risk of colliding with swimmers.
“Drone surveillance can help make our beaches safer and help rescuers rely less on jellyfish nets,” the researchers said.
They tested the accuracy of unmanned aerial vehicles as catchers for jellyfish in the waters of the Cape York Peninsula. They installed 70-meter nets, then took drone recordings, then tightened the nets and compared the results of the traditional and the new method.
During the experiment, the pilot of the drone kept a record of the jellyfish seen during each flight. Later, these recordings were compared with the numbers of the networks and with the accuracy achieved by laboratory review of the footage.
The researchers confirmed that reviewing the recordings after the flights led to a significant increase in the detection rate. They also measured the effect of weather conditions such as cloud cover and wind on the success rate of unmanned aerial vehicles.
In the next phase of the project, this method will be applied at Surf Life Saving centers along the coast of Queensland. The tests are funded by the Australian Lions Foundation and will begin in November 2020.